Reframing newsletter

New Recommendations for Framing Adolescent Development

June 25, 2020

Our friends at the FrameWorks Institute recently released two new reports on youth development: “From Risk to Opportunity: Framing Adolescent Development” and “Framing Adolescent Development During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” the latter along with an accompanying webinar.

We know many members of the National Reframing Network advance youth development, so we offer some highlights below from the pair of April 2020 publications.

As Frameworks has established, the public generally fails to understand the period of adolescence from a developmental standpoint. While they often consider it a time of risk and vulnerability to negative influences, people tend to overlook adolescents’ social and emotional growth and the positive contributions they make to their communities. Similarly, Americans lack a robust understanding of the role and value of communities, systems, and institutions in fostering adolescent development. Taken together, all of these conditions limit the public’s support for policies and programs designed to foster healthy adolescent development.

“From Risk to Opportunity” offers seven recommendations to cultivate a more accurate and productive understanding of adolescence. Each recommendation provides a rationale, guidance for incorporating the recommendation into messages, and example messages. Recommendations include:

  • Offset ingrained negative stereotypes with “concrete and positive examples of how adolescents contribute to their communities and society”
  • Explain how systems cause different outcomes for different categories of youth
  • Don’t give oxygen to myths about adolescents, but tell stories of service that benefit communities
  • Highlight adolescents’ broader “social, emotional, and identity development” while avoiding an emphasis on the brain because people associate it in a limited way with intelligence
  • Enlist “discovery metaphors” to show how youth learn, such as “Young people learn by trial and error”

“Framing Adolescent Development During the COVID-19 Pandemic” provides recommendations — that echo those in “From Risk to Opportunity” — for how to talk about youth development when the virus is creating stress and trauma, while the actions taken to slow the spread, like school closings and cancelled camps, clubs and other activities, are disrupting the conditions that contribute to healthy adolescent development. Each recommendation outlines a rationale and provides example messages. Among the recommendations are:

  • Use young people’s own “experiences and voices” to tell how they’re benefiting society
  • Demonstrate how all of us “supporting positive youth development” helps everyone, both in the present and the future

Read last year’s Reframing Network Newsletters on FrameWorks’ prior research on adolescent development and transition age foster youth. Read all of FrameWorks’ research on adolescent development.

Please send any questions, comments, or your messages using FrameWorks’ guidance to Bridget Gavaghan, National Reframing Initiative Director.

SPOTLIGHT: Vox Article Focuses on Potential

A June 3, 2020 Vox article, “The coronavirus crisis has revealed what Americans need most: Universal basic services,” by David Roberts, considers an alternative to traditional means tested benefits or universal basic income: universal basic services (UBS). To distinguish UBS, Roberts explains in a well-framed description that invokes the value of human potential and the construction metaphor:

“UBS begins in a different place. Rather than focusing on direct benefits to individuals, it focuses on the social infrastructure that enables individuals to reach their potential. Building on universal, publicly funded services like education and (at least in most countries) health care, it proposes to expand the range of such services to include other building blocks of life in a modern society: food and shelter, housing, access to digital information, and more.”

In an interview with Andrew Percy, an expert on UBS, Percy describes how UBS are identified, with fulfilling potential as the goal:

“For someone to meet their full potential, they need safety, opportunity, and participation. So that is individual safety, opportunity to use their skills and abilities to improve their own lives, and ability to participate in the democracy…They need somewhere safe to live, access to food, health care access, education, access to digital information and communication systems, and access to a transport system. Our seventh category we call legal, by which we mean access to the institutional mechanisms of democracy and society.”

Seeing this language in the media is a good sign that a the new frame is taking hold.